Harry Frankel

The 59th Anniversary of
the Death of Karl Marx

(14 March 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 11, 14 March 1942, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

March 14 marks the anniversary of the death of Karl Marx. The fifty-nine years that have passed since that event have offered nothing but the most explicit confirmation of the correctness of his views. His explanation of the laws that govern the operation of the capitalist system, and his prediction of its breakdown serve to this day as the foundation for the program of the advanced workers’ movement throughout the world.

Why was Marx able to build a structure so secure as to weather the storms of the fierce decades which have passed since his time? The answer is found in his scientific approach to historical questions.

Obscurantists of the bourgeois universities delight in telling us that social sciences are not really exact sciences in the same way as mathematics or physics. This assertion is interpreted in such a way as to relieve these gentlemen of all necessity to apply scientific methods to the study of history and to substitute for them every sort of witchcraft, chicanery, and idealistic hocus-pocus. But Marx and those who followed him took another path. His scientific methods enabled him to discover the basic laws of development in human history.

Allied Himself with the Working Class

In his early years Marx rose to the summit of German bourgeois ideology. Having mastered that, school, and basing himself on the lessons he learned in it, he began to see how every problem led for its solution directly to the revolutionary class of modern society, the working class. Once he had allied himself with that class, he was able to begin the great work which resulted in the synthesis of the best conclusions of German philosophy, English classical economics, and French history.

But Marx was no mere cloistered student, content to stew all his life in his own academic juices. As he himself always pointed out. his theory was not meant to be a dogma, but a guide to action.

Frederick Engels, Marx’s comrade for almost forty years, explained this as he spoke at the grave of his friend. His words are a firm answer to all those who would seek to transform him into “a harmless icon”:

Why Marx Was Hated ... and Respected

“For Marx was above all a revolutionary, and his great aim in life was to co-operate in this or that fashion in the overthrow of capitalist society and the state institutions which it has created, to co-operate in the emancipation of the modern proletariat, to whom he was the first to give a consciousness of its class position and its class needs, a knowledge of the conditions necessary for its emancipation. In this struggle he was in his element, and he fought with a passion, tenacity and success granted to few ...

“And therefore Marx was the best-hated and most-slandered man of his age. Governments, both absolutist and republican, expelled him from their territories, whilst the bourgeois, both conservative and extreme-democratic vied with each other in a campaign of vilification against him. He brushed it all to one side like cobwebs, ignored them and answered only when compelled to do so. And he died respected, loved and mourned by millions of revolutionary workers from the Siberian mines, over Europe and America to the coasts of California, and I make bold to say that although he had many opponents he had hardly a personal enemy.

“His name will live through the centuries and so also will his work.”

The Attitude of the Opportunists

Max Eastman is well-known as a man who deserted the hard life of the revolutionary movement for more lucrative employment as the lapdog and court-buffoon of the imperialist bourgeoisie. This honorable gentleman remarked recently in one of his learned dissertations on socialism that Marx was a failure, and had to be supported all his life like a baby. In this smug thrust is contained the whole essence of philistine degeneracy. Political Babbitts of Eastman’s variety are always concerned first of all with their own personal gain, and the safety of their worthless hides. They look with mistrust and suspicious hatred upon all those fearless revolutionists who suffer privation and persecution for the sake of their ideas.

When he was alive Marx had to put up with similar gibes and insults. There were not a few Eastmans then to whom politics was a business in which the politician’s first effort must be to feather his own nest. There were those, then, as now, who judged every theory by its market value.

Marx never saw things that way. He sought, first of all, to understand society as it actually was, and having understood it, to work for its progressive transformation. There is no fortune to be earned that way, and lie never earned a fortune. He earned instead, the everlasting gratitude of the millions of oppressed who have flocked to his program, and the millions more who will come to it.

For a man like Marx, this was enough!

Last updated on 13 April 2022